Published on Saturday, 2nd December 2017


Earlier in the week, I attended an expert roundtable organised by Vivid Homes that was ostensibly about social housing and wellbeing but which actually drifted on to questions about the future of the social housing sector.


A number of points were made about possible changes in government policy. With the recent budget containing multiple announcements about house building and including allowing councils in some areas to borrow money for social housing, a change in emphasis on housing policy away from purely owner occupation is under way. However I could not agree with the panel’s view that discounted housing should be available to anyone who wants it: the state will never be able to subsidise most people and it should not try.


Perhaps the most significant point came near the end when someone (via Twitter) asked whether social (or affordable) housing will ever be able to be provided without subsidy. The clearest answer was provided by Gavin Smart, the deputy CEO of the Chartered Institute of Housing, who simply said ‘no’. Other panel members said that you could use the profits from market housing to pay for affordable housing. Radian Homes are an example of a housing association that does this, with most of its homes being available for sale or rent at the market price. 


From a council perspective, this just confirms what we already knew, which is that it is not possible to build huge numbers of council houses without first coming up with huge amount of money – and realistically the only source for that would be via the council tax. The good news is that using its Right to Buy receipts, Portsmouth City Council is building over 200 homes, which is its largest programme in three decades. Extending that further though would require a government subsidy.


Tags: Housing